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"Renaissance Women’s Writing and the Problem of the Fragment"
  • Wednesday, November 6, 2019 - 5:00pm to 7:30pm

Fisher-Bennett Hall 401

We are extremely excited to announce that this year's Phyllis Rackin Lecture, "Renaissance Women’s Writing and the Problem of the Fragment," will be delivered by Prof. Jennifer Higginbotham on Wednesday, November 6th at 5 PM in Fisher-Bennett Hall, room 401, followed by a reception in the English Faculty Lounge.

This annual lecture honors Professor Phyllis Rackin's significant contributions to women's studies and early modern literary studies, as well as her long-time efforts in teaching and mentorship. Our speaker this year, Jennifer Higginbotham, earned her Ph.D. from Penn in 2007. Now Associate Professor of English at Ohio State University, she has published a number of influential essays on feminist theory and the history of childhood in Renaissance drama and poetry. Her first book, The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence (2013), was the first book to analyze the role of literature in constructing early modern notions of the "girl," initially a gender-neutral term. She is the co-editor of Queering Childhood in Early Modern English Drama and Culture (2018) and the recipient of numerous teaching awards from Ohio State, including the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, the university's highest honor for teaching. Her current research focuses on early modern women's writing and the challenges of canonicity.
Professor Higginbotham writes:

One of the central challenges of studying early modern women’s texts is that so many of them have been lost, have survived as fragments, or were never completed. Rather than needing to be deconstructed like the conflated Shakespearean texts that have become so familiar over hundreds of years of editing, the extant works of many women need to be framed in a way that enables us to understand their already deconstructed state. This talk meditates upon the paradoxical connections between the unfinished and the infinite, and the way genre and gender mediate the relationship between them in Mary Wroth’s The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania. Housed in the Newberry Library, the unfinished manuscript continuation of the second part of Wroth’s prose romance reveals her compositional practice of leaving blank spaces so that she could go back and insert imbedded poems into the narrative. In several instances, she never did. How do we read those blanks? How do we read something that is not so much absent as non-existent?

This year's Phyllis Rackin Lecture is co-sponsored by the English Department, the Penn Women's Center, and Prof. Rebecca Bushnell. We are extremely grateful for their support.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Aylin Malcolm & Apurva Tandon
Medieval/Renaissance Working Group Coordinators, 2019-20